Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

This morning the Powerball grand prize stands at $1.3 BILLION, the largest in history, and more than the budget of several of the smaller countries in the world.  As you can imagine, the nation has gone crazy in a rush to buy tickets. On Friday and Saturday Kentucky citizens bought tickets at a rate of 35 per second, in the vain hope to escape poverty.

The chance of hitting the right number in ONE in 292.2 million with an equally remote chance that there could be multiple winners which would reduce the prize as it is equally divided.  One couple won $48 on $140 worth of tickets.  They planned to play their $48 on more tickets before Wednesday’s next drawing.  Such was the luck of many small winners, they won less than they spent.  Experts expect over 80% of all possible combinations will be played on the next drawing.  So the odds are 4 in 5 of some one winning.  Twenty-five tickets won $1 million by getting five of six numbers right.  Three more won $2 million because they paid extra to double smaller prizes.

One ticket buyer said huge jackpots appeal to the kid in us that believes in magic.  There is indeed much magical thinking involved with those who play limiting numbers like birthdays, or anniversaries, or those who roll dice to pick numbers.  Those who use randomly generated numbers by the computer often fare better.  Players talk about optimism, and the hope playing brings them.  Hope in Jesus to save us eternally is a greater, more inspiring hope. There is lots of peer pressure in office pools.  No one wants to be left out if your officemates should win millions.

Of the $1.3 billion prize, a winner who wanted a lump sum would get about $800.00 of which about half or $400 would be the pay out after taxes.  If the winner wanted the whole prize the payout would be over 30 years where inflation could eat away the value of the $43.3 million per year.  Even if the winner takes the cash option he/she is wise to buy a large annuity to cover their living expenses if their other investments go south.

So, save your money and your integrity.  Take the normal route to success.  Work hard and be innovative.  The odds are better than “luck.”

The following articles are all from the Lexington Herald-Leader.  Morgan Eads, “Kentucky selling 35 Powerball tickets a second, January 9, 2016. P. 1A..  Scott McFetridge, “A few tips on improving tiny odds in $800 million Powerball,” (Associated Press) January 9, 2016, p. 2A.  Colby Itkowitz, “Playing the Powerball lottery isn’t for suckers its for optimists,” (Washington Post) January 10, 2016, p.4A.  Josh Funk, “Jackpot world’s largest at $1.3 billion.” (Associated Press) January 11, 2016, p. 1A.